Are you considering over-the-counter (OTC) hearing aids? These new devices can be purchased without a medical prescription or a hearing exam and are lower in cost than traditional hearing aids. However, these may be the very reasons that OTC hearing aids are not a good choice for some people. If you purchase hearing aids that are not right for your individual hearing loss, it may cost you more in the long run. That’s where an audiologist (doctor of audiology) can make all the difference.
OTC Hearing Aids Vs. Prescription Hearing Aids
Traditional hearing aids require a prescription from a hearing aid specialist or an audiologist who is specifically trained in hearing aid technology, and who programs hearing aids to a patient’s specific level and type of hearing loss. Now, however, the new OTC hearing aids can be purchased online or at a retail store without any assistance from a hearing specialist. You can compare these OTC hearing devices with eyeglass “readers” that you can purchase without a prescription to improve your vision. If you have very mild vision impairment and pick the right strength of magnification, the readers can be a good solution to improve your vision. Given the cost of hearing aids, though, it is much more important that you make the correct selection when it comes to hearing aids.
Researching OTC Hearing Aids
The ease of access and lower cost for OTC hearing aids may be appealing to individuals who have never considered hearing aids in the past. If you are one of those people, there are several things to consider before you purchase an OTC hearing aid. You’ll need to research the various models of OTC hearing aids and determine which options and warranties are best for you. The next task will be adjusting the hearing device to meet your level of hearing loss. You will also need to know what to do about repairs and navigate the ongoing technology upgrades.
“Some people will be up to the challenge of researching OTC hearing aids on their own, but for many people the process will be too overwhelming and confusing,” says Lynn High, AuD, a doctor of audiology at CornerStone Ear, Nose & Throat. “That’s OK. Not everyone is tech savvy. For those people with hearing loss, an audiologist can be essential, whether you select an OTC hearing aid or decide that a traditional hearing aid may be best for your hearing loss after all.”
What Is The First Step You Should Take?
Getting a diagnostic hearing test from an experienced audiologist should be the very first thing you do if you are considering buying any kind of hearing aid. These hearing exams are painless and quick and are covered by most insurance plans, including Medicare. A diagnostic hearing test is significantly more detailed than a hearing screening or the free assessments provided in a retail store or online. Most importantly, diagnostic hearing tests performed by doctors of audiology can detect more severe hearing loss that will not be helped with an OTC hearing aid, types of hearing loss that could indicate a more serious health concern and types of hearing loss that could be corrected surgically. And an audiologist can advise you of any other medical conditions that may be causing your hearing challenges.
Here are six additional reasons to make an appointment with a doctor of audiology (Audiologist) before purchasing an OTC hearing aid:
1. Knowledge And Expertise
Both audiologists and hearing aid specialists are licensed to sell hearing aids. However, only a doctor of audiology has earned a doctorate degree that focuses on hearing health. Hearing aid specialists are required to just have a high school diploma and several weeks of training. This is an important distinction because individuals develop hearing loss in a variety of ways and have unique communication requirements. The benefit of an audiologist’s years of formal training can keep you from investing in an OTC hearing aid that will not properly help your individual hearing loss.
2. Not All Ears Are The Same
If you have more severe hearing loss, an OTC hearing aid will not be effective. For many patients, a prescription hearing aid will be needed to improve hearing and communication. A doctor of audiology can recommend the best hearing aid for your level of hearing loss that will have the best fit in your ears. This will maximize the comfort and functionality of the prescription hearing aid. Audiologists will also monitor your progress and make adjustments and technology updates for you as necessary.
3. Benefits Of The Patient-Provider Relationship
Hearing loss often occurs as we age. However, conditions such as Ménière’s disease, abnormalities of the ear and exposure to trauma or ototoxic chemicals can also cause hearing loss. Only doctors of audiology can determine the actual cause of your hearing loss. They can explain the treatment options that may be most beneficial, whether it is cleaning the wax out of your ears, treating a medical issue or getting a hearing aid.
4. Untreated Hearing Loss Can Contribute To Other Issues
Hearing loss can cause bigger issues than missing out on conversations with family and always needing to turn up the TV volume. Untreated hearing loss can lead to a range of health issues and have long-term effects on your health. Research has established a clear link between untreated hearing loss and cognitive decline, depression and increased risk for falls. Leading scientists believe that hearing loss may actually be a contributing cause of dementia. Doctors of audiology can help you understand all of the other medical conditions that can be associated with untreated hearing loss and assist you in finding a solution that may prevent some of these concerns.
5. Protecting Your Hearing
A doctor of audiology will perform a diagnostic hearing test to accurately diagnose your hearing loss. Knowing your level of hearing can help prevent your OTC hearing aids from being set too loud, which can further damage your hearing. Understanding the cause of your hearing loss can open up other potential treatment options, such as surgery to correct the loss in some cases, and it can prevent a potentially serious medical condition, such as a tumor, from going undiagnosed.
6. Peace Of Mind
By choosing a doctor of audiology for a diagnostic hearing test, you can ensure that your hearing assessment is accurate and that there are no other serious conditions associated with your hearing loss.
OTC hearing aids now provide an array of new options for adults with hearing loss. They might be the right choice if you can find the option that best fits your specific level of hearing loss. If you are planning to buy an OTC hearing aid, you owe it to yourself (and your investment) to start with a doctor of audiology.
CornerStone Ear, Nose & Throat can assist you with the process of finding the best hearing solution for you. Whether you want an in-office hearing test that will allow you to understand your individual level and type of hearing loss, or you simply want to understand what steps will be required of you after you purchase your OTC hearing aid to make it work properly, our audiologists are available to provide you with knowledge and guidance so that you can make the best possible decision.
To learn more or make an appointment with one of our doctors of audiology, call CornerStone Ear, Nose & Throat at 704-752-7575. We have offices in Charlotte, Monroe and Indian Land.